Sooner or later it happens to everyone. And then it happens again and again. One moment you’re sitting there just living life, you think you’re safe, and then someone asks it. Whoomp. The question bomb.

“WHO DO YOU FANCY?”

It’s an awkward question, and not one you always want to answer honestly.

Maybe you fancy the same person as your friend, and you don’t want them to know. Maybe the people asking can’t be trusted with the information. Maybe you don’t fancy anyone in the world right now, but you feel like you’re supposed to because everyone else does so you can’t admit it.

Whatever your reasons for hiding the truth, I am here to help. Here are some lies you can tell to wiggle out of the interrogation.

1. You’re already in a relationship… with someone who goes to a different school

It’s a classic for a reason. You can’t prove it’s true, and no one can prove it isn’t. It’s such an old lie that no one would ever use it in real life – and therein lies its genius. If it’s obviously the kind of lie no one would ever tell, no one will believe you’re really telling it. Boom.

2. Pick a name, any name

Close your eyes and point, and whoever you’re pointing at: that’s your crush. At least, as far as anyone else is concerned. Congrats, randomer over there! The new object of your fake affection. The more unlikely the person, the better – and if anyone comments, you get to take the moral high ground of knowing it doesn’t matter, because none of it is true.

3. It’s top secret classified information

You want to tell them, you really do, but you can’t because the person concerned is secretly a spy. Or you’re a spy. Or you’re both spies on opposite sides, and if anyone knew of your love, it would cause a War of the Spies. You are willing to pine in secret to avoid this, because you are so noble.

4. You have some pretty specific requirements for a potential crush, and you’re not sure anyone you know can fill them

They’ll need to be able to dance. And play the drums. And cook really good lasagne. And surf and do kung fu, and fly a small plane, and shoot lasers from the palms of their hands, and teleport. Why should you settle?

5. You’re saving yourself for Batman

Not Ben Affleck. Not Christian Bale. Not George Clooney or Val Kilmer or Michael Keaton or Adam West. Not Bruce Wayne. Batman. With the flash car, and the concerned and annoyed butler, with the cape, and the mask and the grappling hook. Only Batman will do.

Or Catwoman, obviously, if she’s more your bag.

@j9andlf

Watching a BFF go through heartbreak is almost as hard as being the one with the broken heart. It sucks, big time. Whether the love she has for a crush turns out to be oh-so-unrequited, or a childhood sweetheart has cruelly cut the cord – she’s going to need you.

Of course, the obligatory two or three days of self-pity are allowed. A tub of Ben & Jerry’s, a Twilight film marathon and a jumbo packet of heavy-duty tissues should do the trick. But then it’s time to spread some positive vibes and help her to see that your friendship is the real romance here.

1. Shout out to my ex playlist

Create a playlist for your pal and get ready to sing, shout or scream out the lyrics together while dancing like electricity is running through you. Leave the soppy ballads out of this and stick to upbeat hits with a strong, independent girl message.

Beyoncé’s greatest hits are a broken-hearted girl’s arsenal. I play them on repeat after every breakup and strut down the street/corridor/supermarket aisle with my headphones plugged in, knowing that Bey’s 100% on my side.

2. Squad, assemble!

It’s time to call in a favour from your mum and organise that sleepover she’s been promising for the last few months. Gather the girls together and ask them to bring along your BFF’s favourite snacks, or all chip in for an obscenely indulgent takeaway.

My personal film recommendation is Legally Blonde. I consider enrolling into law school for at least five minutes after every viewing of this film. Sure, the wardrobe is so dated that each outfit probably causes long-term damage to your eyes. But the story is so great, the positive message is powerful and Reese Witherspoon is peak Reese Witherspoon. Oh, and it’s hilarious!

3. Headline Glastonbury (well, kinda…)

Fact: there is nothing cooler, more liberating and as empowering than being in a band. With heartache comes top material for angsty pop hits, we have Taylor Swift as proof of this. So, dust off your dad’s guitar, tell your friend to put those piano lessons to good use, rope in a drummer and get writing.

There are loads of YouTube tutorials that you can use to learn chords, if you’re finding it tricky. You might just be the next Haim, but even if you’re not, it’s still MEGA FUN.

4. New hobbies, new friends

Meeting new people and trying new things are always a good idea. You and your best pal could enrol for after-school activities such as a sports club, drama school, dance lessons or local volunteering. Most places will offer a taster session so you can give a few activities a try before committing to something together.

Earlier this year I attended a script writing course and a community band class. I was apprehensive before turning up but they turned out to be some the most rewarding and fun evenings of my year. They were nearly as fun as watching 3 GoT episodes back-to-back on a Monday night.

5. Sign out of social media for a while

We’ve all been there, scrolling through an ex’s Instagram feed, holding our breath, hoping our shaky finger doesn’t accidentally hit the like button on the photo he’s just uploaded of a pretty girl. WHO IS SHE? WHERE ARE THEY? HOW DARE HE! Etc.

 

Social media is such a huge part of our lives, and generally it’s fun, positive and even necessary for communication. But after a breakup, we know it’s best left alone for a week or so – yet every single one of us totally ignores this rule despite knowing how much hurt a photo or status can cause us.

If you think you can handle it, tell your friend you’ll support her by going on a digital detox with her for a few days. Or, at least distract her from her phone by doing super cool things together instead.

6. Listen, chat, hug, LOVE

Sometimes, all you can do is be there for your friend, shower them with love, listen at the other end of the phone on a late Tuesday night and keep reminding them how awesome they are. Now is the time to do this, and your pal won’t forget it if your own heart takes a battering in the future.

If she’s really down in the dumps about things, encourage her to talk to one of her family members or the school counsellor. Just be the BFF that you’d want in your time of need, the one that you no doubt already are.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Whether your dream bedroom is pretty and pink like Betty’s in Riverdale, or sleek and chic like Serena’s in Gossip Girl, we’ll bet there’s one thing you definitely don’t want in it – your sister.

But sometimes you don’t have a choice when it comes to sharing a room, and it can be pretty frustrating. No privacy, conflicting sleep schedules and having to live among all their junk does not make for harmonious sisterly love!

Sharing a room is not ideal, but it’s also not impossible. These top tips will help you keep the peace.

1. Remember it’s not forever

First things first, no matter how annoying your sister is and how much you feel like screaming every time you’re in your room together, remember it’s only temporary. One day you’ll have your very own room and you can do what you like with it. You could start a Pinterest board to plan exactly how it’ll look – it’ll give you something to focus on when she starts snoring again or after you’ve tripped over her shoes for the millionth time.

2. Don’t be petty

It might be tempting to literally draw a line down the middle of the room but that just makes things awkward for everyone. Agree that you’re both allowed to move around freely – within reason, of course. Sprawling across her bed because yours is covered in laundry isn’t cool.

3. Schedule some private time

Privacy pretty much goes out the window when you share a bedroom, but it’s important you get some time to yourself occasionally. Try striking a deal for some regular ‘me time’; perhaps she could watch her favourite TV show in the lounge each week, while you could take the dog for a walk on a designated evening?

4. Share and share alike

Set some ground rules for sharing your stuff. It’s probably a bit unreasonable to flat out refuse to lend her any of your clothes, because chances are she’s got something you’ll want to borrow, too. Agree that any borrowing requests must be made with plenty of notice – no sneaky pinching!

5. Keep it clean

Living with a slob is a clean freak’s worst nightmare – but it’s not much fun living with someone who has tantrums over mug coasters, either! Try to keep your mess to a minimum, and schedule some time once or twice a month to give your room a good clean together, so you feel like you’re putting in equal effort.

6. Respect each other’s sleep schedules

Sleep deprivation is horrible, and if you’re not getting to sleep early enough or you’re being woken up too early, you’re going to be tired, cranky and miserable. Decide on ‘quiet hours’ – say 10pm until 7am – where you both make the effort to keep noise to a minimum. Ask your parents to pick up some low wattage light bulbs the next time they do the weekly shop too so you’re not blinding each other if you need the light on in the night.

7. Make your space your own

You’re probably never going to agree on a décor theme, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your stamp on your area of the room, whether that’s draping fairy lights around your headboard or putting a funky rug down beside your bed. There’s loads of shared-room interiors inspo Pinterest to get you started.

8. Get your parents onside

Chances are, your parents aren’t super happy about you having to share a room either, simply because they know it’s going to result in arguments now and then. But at times it’ll feel like they don’t care about your situation – after all, they chose to share a room. But if something is really bothering you and you’ve already tried talking to your sister, speak to your parents about it. Keep a cool head and explain that you’d like their help in sorting out the problem. It’s much harder for them to say no to something if you’re reasonable about it.

9. Remember it’s no fun for them either

It’s easy to focus on how much it sucks for you to have to share a room, but your sister probably isn’t that happy about it either. Next time you’re about to lose your temper with her, take a deep breath and try to remember that you’re probably just as annoying in her eyes. You’re both in this together, which means sometimes just letting things go.

10. Enjoy it

Sharing a room with your sister can be a right pain, but it can also be a lot of fun. You’ve got someone there when you’ve had a bad day, someone to chat with late into the night and someone to have a giggle with 24/7 – you’ll never feel lonely. Make the most of it – you might miss it one day!

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Today is International Friendship Day.

It’s the perfect time to celebrate awesome friends, whether they’re on the other side of the world, a few doors down the street or half-watching Pretty Little Liars in bed next to you.

I made, kept and lost a lot of friends when I was growing up, as my family moved around exactly eight times before I turned 16. It’s tough, and my poor mum endured a lot of tears and tantrums that I dedicated to her.

We first moved to another country while I was at primary school. I felt like a pea being ripped out of its pod and thrown into a mountainous salad of the unfamiliar. The kids in my new school wanted to know more about me and I just wanted to go back to my ‘real’ home.

But the tears of sadness and anxiety soon dried. I found the joy of writing letters to my pen-pals in England and started to open up to the new crowd and give them a chance. I made friends and soon felt like the most popular kid in school, just because everyone wanted to be pals with the new English girl.

After a couple of years, my family returned to England and I faced the sadness and frustration all over again. I cried my eyes out when my new best friend gave me a brown faux-leather coat as a leaving present – I’d eyed it up in the local department store for weeks.

But my emotions were mixed once more, as I was excited to be reunited with my old buddies, telling them all about my time away and showing off my pierced ears and bobbed hair. I would reach peak popularity, again!

I never saw the girl who gifted me with the coat after I left, but I’ll always be thankful to her
for being my pal and giving me something that made me feel like I was a total rock star. And I’m forever grateful to the friendly classmates who welcomed me into their school and invited me to their birthday parties like I was royalty.

Looking back, these experiences helped me to mature into a teenager, then adult who can cope with change. I learnt to be brave and open minded about meeting new people, which can often feel like walking into a room of Death Eaters.

I inherited and continued the habit of moving around well after finishing school and leaving the nest. I even somehow ended up in Paris for six months! It put me in good stead for continuing to make new friends. I learn something from every person I meet; about the world, about them and about myself.

I went on to live with an Irish girl and a Spanish girl when I moved to Edinburgh. We’d never met before moving in together but I soon considered them two of my best friends. Last year we reunited at my Spanish friend’s family home in Madrid and it felt like nothing had changed, except her gorgeous apartment wasn’t infested with mice and mould like our old digs. We’re meeting up again this year, in Morocco, using our friendship as a perfect excuse to explore the world together.

There are also the times when other people are the ones to leave a friend-shaped hole in my life.

My best friend moved to Canada with a boy. She was so excited, I thought I’d never see or hear from her again. But thanks to Skype, we ended up speaking more regularly than we had done in a long time. In fact, I definitely did the old ‘oh the Wifi is breaking up’ trick a few times when Made in Chelsea was about to start during one of our Monday night catch ups. But even though she was approximately a million miles away, I knew she’d be there for me no matter what.

Friendships don’t need constant attention, just a little watering now and again to keep things in bloom. And in a world of social media and instant communication, saying goodbye in person doesn’t mean that the friendship must end.

I have recently reconnected with old friends in London through Facebook, I natter with my Yorkshire based buds on WhatsApp throughout the week, and I receive much needed grownup advice and guidance from my talented writer friend in China (along with British reality TV lolz and bantz that she admirably keeps us with over there).

Even if all you can do to today is send a good thought to someone, do it for the friends – old and new, near and far – who have helped shape you into the person that you are.

Me? I want to thank all my friends, wherever you are, for constantly making me feel as special as I did the first time I put on that coat and strutted into the classroom.

@hlouiser89

Image: Kate Borrill

I remember vividly the quivering sense of excitement I felt when my parents told me I was going to have a brother or sister. A playmate, I cried! After six long years of solitude, I was finally being rewarded with a partner in crime; a bad guy to my good guy; a fellow cast member with which to share the makeshift stage. For nine months I dreamed of all that we’d do together. His Action Man could save my Barbie — or, if he was a girl, her Barbie and mine could fight for Ken’s affections!

Looking back, my doll games were fairly limited in their plot lines, and in their depressingly conformist gender roles. More ambitious plans included reaching the top of the apple tree (I’d stand on their shoulders), forming a secret club of secrets (I’d be Club Captain), and reenacting the Little Mermaid in the paddling pool.

His arrival did not disappoint me. Sure he was small, but that was surely a temporary impediment. Patiently I pushed toy cars at him, placed Action Man in his tiny hands, and dressed him up in dresses, tiaras or dog masks according to the stage production or my mood.

Often I lost patience: WHEN would he just grow up! I’d shout, as he poked his tongue through the holes of the tennis racket I’d given him, picked up the ball and chewed it obliviously — and really, by the time he really was of Action Man playing age, I’d almost lost interest. I was 13 and had more important things to think about than dolls with contourless plastic for genitals — until an idle moment, rain and a sudden urge for silliness showed me the error of my ways.

You’ll be hilarious (simply because you’re older)

Whatever you do or say will be automatically far funnier than anything their minds can even conceive of (caveat: this only works up to a certain age — then they’re funnier than you).

There is no pressure

You don’t have to do or be anything other than their older sister. You can have a face like a slapped arse and be wearing your gran’s body warmer and they’ll still think you are the coolest thing in the world.

They’ll laugh you out of your moods

Either because they’ll do, or say something stupid, or because it’s actually impossible to run around the garden ‘riding’ a cane with your dad’s sock stuffed full of plastic bags tied to the end, with a horse’s face drawn on, and not crack a smile.

They will love you for it

In world in which people are increasingly hard to please, the simple offering of half an hour of your time will earn you no end of devotion from them, and your parents praise.

You don’t have to be cool

In fact, the more silly you are, the better. Hoover their foot. Shoot them with a banana. Steal their hat and run off with it. Make farting noises or, better still, actually fart at them — then run out and shut the door.

You can abuse them

See above. Obviously don’t punch them or anything. At least, not hard. Or too near their eye area. But by and large, when it comes to siblings, you can metaphorically speaking go for broke.

You’ll be good with kids

Being able to entertain the younger members of your family is the best possible preparation for being an adult who can speak to children without sounding like a simpering idiot — and ultimately, for having a good relationship with your own kids.

You’ll help your parents

Spare a thought for the ‘rents. They’ve only just got you to the feeding, speaking and walking stage, now they’ve got to go and do it all again in what must seem like a never-ending carousel of childcare. Take them off their hands for ten minutes or so and you’ll earn some serious brownie points — not to mention bargaining power when it comes to your next big night out.

You’ll be friends forever

Yeah, it’s taken some time — but 20 years later that that tiny, wailing, flopping thing was worth the investment. My brother has picked me up when I’m down, shot me down when I’m up myself, ferried me from parties, airports and train stations and built various bits of furniture. They may be as irritating as eczema, sunburn and hives all rolled into one, but trust me: in every sibling there lies a potential best friend.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

The realisation that your parents are actual people can be horrifying.

It’s like seeing one of your teachers outside of school, or Matthew Perry playing a character that isn’t Chandler.

You get used to seeing your parents in certain, parenty roles and it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that they exist outside of that realm; that they forget birthdays, that they send needy messages, that they feel fat some days, that they fall in love.

That they fall out of love.

And they also go through break ups.

For some people, when their parents break up, it can feel like their entire world is crumbling around them. As though the stable life they have always known has been blown apart.

For others it can feel like an enormous relief, an end to an unhappy household and parents who fight all the time.

But even if you expect it to happen, even if you knew it was coming, it can still hurt like hell.

I was seventeen when my parents broke up and I didn’t see it coming.

I was wrapped up in my own life. I was taking my final exams, I was navigating my way through my own, very intense relationship, I was trying to decide what I wanted to study at university. I didn’t notice the other things that were going on in our house.

I didn’t see that my parents were hardly talking anymore. I clocked that my mum was crying a lot, but I put that down to her becoming more emotional as she got older. I was aware that my dad was coming into my room more often to hang out, but I thought it was because he was worried about me going away to university next year and having an ‘empty nest’.

But when they finally told me, I felt the pieces click into place. I felt stupid and self-absorbed and confused. I had no idea what to say or what to do or how to act.

I mistakenly thought that because my parents had survived four children, five different cities and 30 years of marriage, that they were somehow immune from divorce.

When dad moved out, my boyfriend helped me pack all my dad’s clothes into big black bin bags and stuff them in the back of my car. We counted up all the spare change in his top drawer, separated it into different currencies and took it to the bank. We made cookies with my new Christmas-shaped cookie cutters.

I remember holding my mother as she cried and realising that I had never been the one doing the holding, I was always the one being held. My mother had spent her whole life taking care of me, and now I decided it was time for me to take care of her. And sometimes, she’d let me.

I would go to the supermarket and return armed with what I considered precisely the amount of chocolate to cure her broken heart. We would lie curled on the sofa watching films and she would fall asleep resting her head on my shoulder. When the film was over I would carefully nudge her awake and tell her ‘it’s bedtime,’ while I turned off the lights in the living room.

My parents got back together in the end, so I guess I was luckier than most. Now, they hold hands like teenagers who can’t bear the idea of being apart.

And sure, it was a crappy, emotional, chocolate-filled time but I learned a lot from the experience. The thing that stuck with me the most was that sometimes adults will act like teenagers and sometimes teenagers will act like adults. After all, we’re all just people in the end.

Image: Getty

Your first love is super exciting, guys. The butterflies when they text back, the electric shock when they hold your hand, the first kiss, the lets-get-married-and-have-babies feeling you can’t suppress. It’s slushy and exciting and all-consuming. You want to spend time with your shiny new boyfriend 24/7, right? But if there’s one rule I can teach you early on in the game of love, it’s not to sideline your bff.

Sure, they can’t gaze into your eyes over a chocolate sundae and make you melt inside and out, but they were there at the beginning of this wild romance, and they’ll be there at the end. Unless the married-and-have-babies thang comes true, in which case they’ll be right by your side at the wedding anyways, because CHIEF BRIDESMAID.

The first rule: it doesn’t have to be bff vs boyfriend. You might not be able to recreate Monica and Chandler’s super-cute r’ship with their pals in Friends (unless you’ve all been besties at school since day one) but there’s no harm in merging groups. Why can’t your girls and his guys come together in a big ball of joy and love? The answer is: they can. Just don’t be too PDA in public. There’s absolutely no fun to be had watching two people play tonsil tennis in the corner of Maccy D’s for three straight hours. Trust me, I’ve been there. Also, I’m pretty sure tongue exhaustion is a legit condition.

Next, mate dates. Make time to hang with your best friend and do not, I repeat, do not invite your new boyfriend along. Those few hours hanging out in your bedroom together trying out the latest braids or strolling round the shopping centre catching up on school goss are precious. Treat them with respect. Your boyfriend has no place here so tell him you’re a sassy, independent woman that needs some girl time.

Another rule to revise and memorise forever: if you’re on a mate date, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. I’m just gonna say it – it’s not nice if you’re ‘there’ but not really there. It can make your friend feel unimportant and second best if your hang-out consists of her sitting in silence while you send 196 WhatsApp messages to your boyf. Turn your phone on silent, pop it in your bag and gaze into her eyes over a chocolate sundae.

The lesson? You’ll always need your best friend to confide in so don’t cut them out. Whether you need a moan about the new ‘moustache’ your boyfriend’s trying out (bum-fluff is not a good look, guys) or a big, ugly cry at the fact he likes his computer games more than you, your bestie will always be there for you. Because friends are for life, not just for killing time between crushes…

@missblackmore

Image: Clueless

When you think about it, kissing is one of the weirdest things you can ever do.

It’s sort of gross, if you break it down. All sloppy tongues and wet lips and spit and teeth and hoping your breath doesn’t stink… or that’s what I tend to think about, anyway. Over the years I’ve kissed quite a few people, but my first kiss? The weirdest thing about the first time I ever kissed someone is how hard it is for me to remember it.

For so many years, having my first kiss was all I could think about. I’d sneak books from the library and read the paragraphs where couples would kiss over and over again. I’d watch TV, pretending I wasn’t looking through my fingers any time the snogging started. I’d daydream during my lessons, I’d practice on my arm (once even giving myself a love bite), and I would write in the notebooks I’ve kept since I was 12 about how much I wanted to kiss, a boy, on the lips.

But the main problem with me trying to kiss a boy was I didn’t really know any. I went to an all-girls school, so unless I was willing to grab a random one at the bus stop (and I was tempted), my kissing options at the time were pretty limited. When it eventually happened, I think I liked it.

I think I liked it… but I just don’t remember.

Some of the facts I do know: there was a boy. He was very tall and I really fancied him. We stood somewhere in the middle of a park, and I think we were chatting, and I think his arms were around mine. At some point he leaned down, I leaned up, and we kissed each other. It was late and dark, and all I could smell was wet grass and teenage boy (a funny mixture of sweat, chips and damp socks).

How to kiss for the first time (or not)

I always thought that when I finally kissed someone, everything would ‘just make sense’ and I’d feel like a proper adult. But it didn’t, and I didn’t. I stood there, thinking too much about nothing important.

If I wrote down my thoughts at the time, they’d go something like this:

1. Does he have two tongues?

2. He is tall, maybe he does have two tongues.

3. Or maybe he’s just spitting loads in my mouth?

4. Or maybe I’m spitting in his mouth!

5. Maybe I produce too much saliva and I’m a freak.

6. …or maybe he likes all my spit

7. Do I need to move my tongue more?

8. Maybe I should just try and spit into his mouth?

9. Ew, though.

And so on, until it was all over.

Community awkward kiss gif

When it finished, I said something mean or rude to a friend about him that I think I meant as a joke. He heard me. Of course he did. Later, my friend Mia’s mum picked us up from the side of the park, and in the darkness of the backseat of the car I whispered to Mia that I had kissed him that night. She whispered back to me that she had too.

I don’t think I felt jealous or weird about that, but I did feel annoyed at myself. I had told my friends I had kissed lots of people before – a total lie, obv – so I couldn’t tell Mia (or anyone) that was the first time I had kissed someone.

And that’s the story of my first kiss.

Here are facts I don’t know: I don’t remember how old I was. Yup, not at all, although I think it was somewhere around 14 to 16. I don’t remember if it was spring, summer, autumn, or winter. I don’t know if there was a party, or if people were drinking, or if I was drinking, or if we were just hanging about in a very dark park doing nothing but kiss and chat and kiss some more.

I don’t remember any of the build-up to the kiss; what time it happened, or how long it lasted, or if it was just one kiss, or if it was lots of them. I don’t remember what happened after I made my ‘joke’ and (maybe) insulted him, and I don’t remember if we ever spoke about it again afterwards, or if we ever even kissed again.

For something that I thought about every day for years, my first kiss has ended up being a pretty unremarkable life event. Over time, I realised it was the boring things like travelling around by myself or making the choice to go home early that have made me feel like a grown up, not kisses – even the kisses that have been really, really great. These days, a lot of my best friends are boys (well, men), and they’re nowhere near as mysterious as I once thought.

I’ve got no regrets about my first kiss, apart from wishing I wasn’t so anxious about it. I worried so much about it before it even happened, and now I remember that worry way more than I remember the kiss itself.

I might not remember the tiny details of the night I had my first kiss, but I do remember one thing: I thought I would remember it forever. The great thing about that not being true? Forever is a really long time, and you might forget things that happened long ago, but for every nice old memory is a new, great memory that comes to take its place.

@bridgetminamore

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I am a sucker for romance. I have watched pretty much every two-and-a-half star romantic comedy there is. I’ve pined along with Elizabeth for Mr Darcy, even though I still think he’s a grumpy arsehole. I’m the first person my friends call when they have a new crush because I know all the right moments to ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhh’ at their story. 

So it wasn’t exactly surprising that in the early years of being a teenager I fancied my friends’ older brothers. Not just one of my friends’ – I fancied ALL of their older brothers.

I didn’t discriminate on anything so trivial as age or appearance or sexual orientation. If you were my friend between the ages of 10 and 15 and you had an older brother, I fancied him. There is literally no exception to this rule.

I went to an all girls’ school from 12 to 15, or what I refer to as ‘The Oestrogen Years’. While other girls in my school would go to dances on Friday nights and meet boys, I went to debating and ate chips in the park with my teammates. On the bus home from school, other girls would flirt with the boys at the back of the bus, while I would sing loudly along to 90s songs with one of my friends.

I was scared of boys I didn’t know. My tongue would go thick in my mouth and I would end up shouting at them by mistake.

But my friends’ brothers? They were boys I knew. I saw them on a semi-regular basis, but never had to spend time with them one-on-one, which as far as I was concerned was the ideal amount of interaction.

My friends would drop crumbs of information about them – they liked maths, they went to see the new Star Wars movie, they were allergic to yoghurt – that I would feverishly collect with the same enthusiasm most people reserve for actual hobbies. I would use these pieces of information to adapt my daydreams of our eventual relationship to ones that included Yoda or excluded Yeo Valley.

Naturally, I had elaborate fantasies about how our relationship would go.

I imagined watching a movie, something funny and probably featuring Owen Wilson, when his arm subtly started edging closer to mine. The completely wonderful and secret kissing, where our teeth would never, ever, knock together. The conversation with my friend who would give me her complete blessing because she knew I was excellent and her brother was excellent and she wanted us both to be excellent together. Obviously.

I imagined the declaration of love that would make me weak in the knees. The eventual Loss Of Virginity. The wedding, where of course my friend would be my maid of honour and make a hilarious, yet deeply moving speech about how we were meant for each other.

I’m almost certain these boys had no idea I existed. A fact that one of them confirmed when I did eventually kiss him, a few years after I emerged from my obsessive bubble.

“When did you start fancying me?” I asked, hoping he would reveal that he had been pining for me for years. That my obsession with him wasn’t one-sided, but rather completely requited.

“I dunno,” he replied. “When you got hot?”

Yep, he was a regular Casanova. This answer was also unhelpful in a myriad of ways.

Firstly, it implies I wasn’t always hot. Which is obviously false. Secondly, even if I wasn’t hot (which I was), my personality is rockin’. How dare he overlook my passion for US politics, my weakness for videos of unlikely animal friends and my admirable loyalty to both of these topics throughout all the years he’s known me? Thirdly, it gives me no clear time line. Lastly, it was wildly unromantic and not at all like the script I had prepared in my head.

Being in love with your friends’ brothers can be difficult. Especially when you’re in love with eight of them simultaneously. And in real life, it might not work out anything like in your head. But hey, a girl can still dream.

You’ve been chatting online for a while, and now you’re ready to take things off-screen and into reality – eeek! Loads of people make IRL friends and relationships through the internet and social media so meeting in the flesh is nothing to be worried about, but it’s normal to have a few nerves (ok, a lot of nerves).

So here are a few pointers to make sure your first meeting goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Do a bit of online sleuthing

Ok, chances are you’ve already stalked their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (but of course you’d never admit it ‘cos you’re cooler than that, right?), so you’re definitely up to speed with their life online. But before you agree to meet, do a little research to make sure they are who they say they are. Do you have any mutual who could vouch for them? Do they have pictures with friends, or are they just solo selfies? We’ve all seen Catfish – never underestimate the power of a reverse image search!

2. Get your friends’ opinions

Your mates know you better than anyone, so they’re in a pretty good position to judge whether or not your crush seems like a decent match for you. Admittedly they’ve only got the same online intel as you, but fancying the pants off someone can make you blind to red flags, so it doesn’t hurt to get another opinion. Plus, your mates being clued up about who you’re meeting is always a sensible safety precaution.

3. Meet in public

This is pretty obvious, but worth repeating! Even if you’re desperate to check out their games collection or they offer to whip up a storm for you in the kitchen, make sure the first time you meet is in a busy public place, preferably with a friend nearby. If everything goes well they can cook for you next time, right? If they’re a decent person they’ll totally understand, so be wary if they’re weird or pushy about meeting somewhere private.

4. Keep it casual

Don’t make a nervy time worse by adding a stressful or potentially embarrassing activity (abseiling! Karaoke!) into the mix. Going for a walk in the park, grabbing a coffee or catching a movie are all pretty failsafe ideas. If you really want to take the pressure off, you could suggest a big group meet-up involving your friends and their friends, too.

5. Dress like yourself

If you feel uncomfortable in what you’re wearing, it’ll show – and you want to feel as relaxed as possible, right? Wear layers so you’re prepared for whatever the weather might throw at you, and think about leaving the killer heels at home. You don’t want to spend a (potentially) romantic walk in the park cursing your newly-forming blisters.

6. Have an escape plan

Make sure you’ve got a friend on standby, ready to send the ol’ OH-NO-THERE’S-AN-EMERGENCY text, in case you want to bail early. Or, if you can’t quite bring yourself to do that, tell your date that you can only hang out with them until a certain time because you’ve got to babysit or do family stuff afterwards. That way you’ve got a ready-made escape plan, but if you’re having a good time and want to extend things, you can just pretend you’re not needed at home after all.

7. Take cash with you

It just makes everything more convenient. You won’t have to waste time looking for a cashpoint should you need one, and it saves the hassle of splitting a bill across two cards. Plus, if you want to leave in a hurry you can just chuck your share of the lunch money on the table and scarper.

8. Manage your expectations

It’s really easy to build up an imaginary picture of your crush based on what they’re like online, but they might be totally different in real life. Go into your date with an open mind – that way you won’t be too disappointed if they’re not exactly how you’d hoped they would be.

9. Don’t rush into anything

It takes time to get to know someone properly, so even if you’ve been chatting online for months there’s still a lot to discover about your crush – and a lot for them to discover about you. They’ve never seen you when you’re hangry, you’ve never seen them when they’re feeling blue. Even if your first meeting has gone really well, you don’t need to jump into a relationship just because you’ve known each other for a while online. Take your time. If they’re the one for you they’ll respect that.

10. Be yourself

The beauty of the internet is that you can curate your online persona however you like. We’re all guilty of taking a thousand selfies in order to get the very best angle, or carefully ‘gramming a cup of tea next to the bath to make it look like we’re having a lovely night in when we’re actually bored out of our minds with nothing else to do. A little bit of artistic license is a given. But when it comes to real life, let your crush see who you really are, not who you think they want you to be. You’ve got to be yourself, because in the end, it’s exhausting being anything else.

@Rachel_England

1. Did I just…?

2. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

3. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. Unlike it immediately!

5. Oh my god! I re-liked it! HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!

6. My life is officially over.

7. Will they still get a notification that I liked the photo?

8. Will it say which photo I liked?!

9. WHY, OH WHY, DID IT HAVE TO BE THE PHOTO WITH THEIR EX?! Do the internet gods have no mercy?

10. I should text Jo and tell her to like and then unlike one of my photos and see what happens.

11. Why won’t Jo text me back?!

12. Urgh and because we don’t even follow each other on Instagram they’ll know I stalked them.

13. And that I trawled through the bazillion Alex Joneses and found the Alex Jones (by the way, thanks for having such a generic name) and that I then proceeded to go through SEVENTY EIGHT WEEKS of Instagram posts.

14. Is it possible they’ll find it flattering?

15. No. Probably not.

16. Maybe I should delete my Instagram account.

17. ORRRR I could move to Latvia! No one knows me in Latvia.

18. I wonder how much flights to Latvia are?

19. What’s the capital of Latvia…

20. Riga? Huh, I wouldn’t have guessed that.

21. I should move to Riga.

22. But then I’d never see Alex again and we would never fall in love.

23. Maybe I’ll just have another look.

No two first kisses are totally alike. Some of us are young, some are a bit older. Some are sweetly romantic, some are entirely gross. Some are remembered for ever, and some are blocked out in the time it takes for the drool to dry on your chin.

But even future celebs aren’t immune from an awkward first snog – and lucky for us, lots of them have shared the juicy (ew) details.

“My first kiss was just awkward as hell. I had no idea what I was doing and he knew exactly what he was doing, so it was awkward for me. You have to nurture your inner child and forgive yourself when you think back on things like that, because it’s ok!”

Shailene Woodley now has an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, so anything is possible, kids.

“My first kiss was at a sleep-away camp, and it was very awkward and over quickly. And that was that. It was just the weirdest thing, and I thought, ‘That was it? Get out of here!’ I didn’t even know his last name.”

Even Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey was just an awkward cub once, like the rest of us.

“My first kiss was actually in a graveyard.”

Did she ghost you afterwards, George Ezra?

“I was about to turn 16 and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to be like the 40 Year Old Virgin,’ I need to hurry this up! But in retrospect, I was fine. It was with this boy I had been talking to for a while. I was in choir and he was a few years older than me and in choir as well. Very nerdy love story.”

Chloe Bridges may be a Pretty Little Liar, but we believe her on this one. Aw.

“Eleven. Across the street from my elementary school. We went up in the park and I had kissed this boy with braces. If you liked a boy, that was the time to kiss, and I was like, ‘Oh, God, everybody’s kissing, and I don’t want to but I might as well go for it.”

Nicki Minaj

“My first kiss was in high school and it was the worst thing, ever. He pretty much dumped his entire saliva glands into my mouth. It traumatised me. I didn’t kiss for, like, ever.”

Thanks for that visual, Rihanna. There goes our lunch.

“First kiss at 10! Yes, 10 years old, tongues and everything. She was a huge crush, we were in the same class, a lot of note swapping, and eventually it all went down in a cricket pavilion on an autumn night. It was very thrilling.”

Cricket pavilion? Could you BE more Tom Hiddlestone, Tom Hiddlestone?

My first kiss was when I was 14, and I literally thought I was going to die because he suffocated me with his tongue. It was a horrible experience.”

Did you need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Ashley Rickards? Oh no, wait.

“I was in fifth grade and thought I was in love with a boy named Graham. So we kissed. Then he broke my heart and told everybody that I was flat-chested and that’s why he didn’t like me anymore.”

Does Graham have an Oscar though, Reese Witherspoon? No he doesn’t.

“The first person I kissed was Miley Cyrus and I kissed her outside of California Pizza Kitchen in Hollywood. Very romantic. I’d just had a pizza that had onions all over it, I’m sure that my breath smelled terrible.”

As long as you there were doughballs and garlic dip, Nick Jonas, she probably didn’t care.

“I waited for my first kiss. I waited until I was 17 and he was a jazz singer named Brenden Call.”

HANG ON, Carly Rae Jepsen – does Call Me Maybe have a whole other secret meaning?

“The first kiss I had was the most disgusting thing in my life. The girl injected about a pound of saliva into my mouth, and when I walked away I had to spit it all out.”

Hollywood is just grateful it didn’t put you off for life, Leonardo DiCaprio.